Preventing the Epidemic

By : Calvin Cho

   In the last issue of Triton’s Call, I explored the methamphetamine epidemic on Guam.  I went into great depths about the types of treatment offered on the island.  

 

For this piece, I continue to investigate this issue, but instead focus on the question of whether Guam is properly equipped to prevent the distribution and abuse of methamphetamine.  

 

There is certainly no hiding the problem of “ice” on the Island.

 

Many experts in the drug and substance abuse fields have expressed just that the drug problem on Guam is a lot worse than what we see on the news.

 

Valerie K. Reyes, a director at Guam’s Lighthouse Recovery Center, expressed to me that sometimes crimes that happen on the island are linked with drug usage, but they are not labeled alongside with it.

 

   According to the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA, “methamphetamine and marijuana are two of the principal drugs of choice on Guam.”

 

The DEA estimates the street value of methamphetamine on an island in the range of $500 to $700 USD/per gram. In the last year, GPD acquired about 18 pounds of methamphetamine in a singular drug bust.

 

Through the help of a mutual friend, I came in contact with Dennis Anthony Quenga Santos, the supervisor of the Guam Police Department’s Crimes Against Persons Unit. Santos has served at GPD for more than 20 years.

 

I asked him about his thoughts regarding the meth situation on Guam.

 

“My stance is that I agree that it is an epidemic, there is absolutely no doubt about it,” Santos said. “And not only is the actual user the victim, but then you have the indirect victims as well, such as the user’s friends and families.”

   

Looking at the past couple years, the number of drug cases, criminal felonies and misdemeanors have gone up in both the Juvenile drug court and the adult drug courts for both.

With the rates only looking to go higher, I asked Mr. Santos on what exactly is GPD is doing to help prevent the spread of ice on Guam.

 

According to Santos, GPD has established the Mandaña Drug Task Force. This task force comprises of a group of law enforcement officers from different agencies, who not necessarily from GPD.  

 

The  Mandaña Drug Task Force was established in Feb. 10, 2017, by Gov. Eddie Calvo.  In a press release, Calvo’s said the task force’s goal is “to suppress the importation, distribution and selling illicit drugs in Guam.”

 

Santos also explained that through the help of the Mandaña Drug Task Force, GPD can have the multi-pronged approach to investigating drug-related crimes.

 

However, taskforce is not the only solution.

 

“We working alongside postal inspectors but also the customs ports of entry to see what we can do to cease what is coming in before it actually gets distributed down to the streets,” Santos said.

 

“We [GPD] also use intelligence information as to who is actually receiving these packages coming in from wherever they may come from wherever the drugs come from and try to identify who these packages are for so that way we can actually make the arrest and try to shut it down from the actual dealer perspectives rather than just the users,” Santos said.

 

The new programs to deal with drug use and distribution has been showing a great effect over this past couple of months.

Just in the news, we can see a greater amount of drug busts and arrests of suspected distributors and users.

 

Although we have made great improvements in preventing the distribution of drugs, this does not mean the problem will disappear overnight.

 

With his 20-plus years in the police force, Santos says that the island still has a long way to go, and that the ice epidemic is just not something that is going to stop overnight.

 

He feels that the solution will require a concerted community effort.

 

“I believe there should be education programs in the primarily and secondary school system to try and educate the children to stay away from drugs such as ice,” Santos said.   

 

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